Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
DETECTIVES from the Border Control Unit have intercepted a contraband of export quality cigarettes worth $760,000 which were being smuggled to neighbouring South Africa on a train. The goods train was reportedly travelling from Bulawayo to South Africa and was intercepted at the main railway station in Beitbridge at around 8AM on Tuesday morning following a tip-off.
The train drivers are alleged to have declared to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) that all the wagons were empty.
Investigators from the Ferret Squad were yet to locate the owners of the contraband yesterday. The Ferret Squad is made up of officials from Zimra, police, Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), immigration and other security agents.
When the news crew arrived at the crime scene yesterday, officials from Zimra were taking the cigarettes to a secure warehouse in the border town.
“We received a tip off that the goods train had a consignment of cigarettes which were being smuggled into South Africa after the train had delayed its arrival in Beitbridge by six hours. The train stopped longer than necessary at Jopembi area some 80km along the Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway line.
“At the moment the police are yet to make any arrest and we suspect the cigarettes could have been loaded at that area. We are yet to interview the train drivers,” said a member of the Ferret Squad. He said the consignment comprised of 900 boxes of Kingdom and 50 boxes of Chelsea cigarettes.
Police spokesman for Matabeleland South Province Inspector Philisani Ndebele said they were yet to get a report on the incident.
In a related incident on the same day, police intercepted a further 72 boxes of cigarettes worth $57,600 which were being transported to South Africa along the Beitbridge Masvingo road near Bubi River.
On Monday morning two Harare men were each fined $1,000 by a Beitbridge magistrate after they were convicted of attempting to smuggle 846 boxes of cigarettes into South Africa on Sunday afternoon.
It is understood that the South African Revenue Services imposes high excise duty on cigarettes which has resulted in a marked increase in cases of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Chronicle has established that the cigarettes are repackaged when they get to South Africa before being shipped to either Europe or Asia. A box of cigarettes is sold for an average of $135 on the official market in Zimbabwe and $800 in South Africa.
According to a report by the South African Revenue Services (SARS), last year about 70 percent of the tobacco contraband in the neighbouring country was smuggled through Beitbridge border post.